“When the first generation in an ancestry receives an education, nature smiles.”
The Katkari are a western India tribe mostly belonging to the state of Maharashtra. In Maharashtra the Katkari have been designated a vulnerable tribal group. Their vulnerability derives from their history as a nomadic, forest-dwelling people.
The Katkari of today are highly dependent on others for their livelihoods, and for a place to live. Most Katkari are landless workers with only periodic and tenuous connections to their original nomadic, forest-based livelihoods. Many have become bonded labourers working on the brick kilns and charcoal units serving the urban and industrial interests of Greater Mumbai.
The Katkari struggle to remain in their hamlets as unpredictable forces at the micro level are driving the Katkari from their ancestral foresthomes – haphazardly and one hamlet at a time.
The Katkari community is most often firmly excluded from membership in village society. Particular expressions of untouchability, including physical exclusion, the assumption of criminality and a visceral reaction to Katkari food habits have created an extreme distance of the Katkari from the caste-based agrarian order.
The first Katkari child I encountered was at Shirwal village (about 80 Kms from Pune on the Bengaluru road) was Usha Ashok Katkare (6) I was part of a free medical camp organised by a NGO based in Pune (Mukul Madhav Foundation http://www.mmpc.in/) at Shirwal Zilla Parishad School for under privileged school children at various villages from Pune to Ratnagiri.
The Katkari based at the outskirts of Shirwal are largely fisher folk and fish in the river that flows near Shirwal.
(I recollect, two years ago we had donated a bicycle to another freshwater fisherman, Bhagwan. He uses old sarees, and not professional nets, to fish. The income he manages to generate from catching fish daily from the river is not enough to buy nets. There are times when he does not catch any fish, even after spending 6 to 8 hours in the river, and sometimes he has no income for 20 to 25 days. This happens when there is too much water, monsoons, or when there is too little, during the summer months, in the river. Too much, or too little, both are not good. There was a lesson from nature for us, in this, I thought.)
At Shirwal Zilla Parishad School I came across Usha Ashok Katkare. I found out, from Dr Ashutosh Muley of Mukul Madhav Foundation, that Usha is the first of her ancestry to be formally educated in school! The first!!! That was heart wrenching for us.
I was told by the school authority that the parents of many of these children are not keen their daughters (and even sons sometimes) get educated as they fear & feel it will not really impact their lives and future; and they do not even have the money to educate their children beyond primary school.
We were suddenly very interested in encouraging these children, and their parents, to continue their education. If a girl receives education, there is a greater chance she will make a better choice for her livelihood and or her marriage and later on such a woman will ensure she educate her children. And so her second generation will receive education and opportunities too.
It was very important for us to, in our little way, encourage this under privileged first generation of children attending school. We decided to donate a sturdy school bag cum haversack (since they walk long distances for school) and whatever stationery Usha and her siblings needed, and even what they desire but is beyond their reach.
When Mukul Madhav Foundation’s Dr Muley enquired about Usha’s stationery needs from her school’s principal, he found out there are a nine girls from the Katkari community in the school, the first generation in their ancestry receiving an education, so we decided to encourage all nine by making them feel a little appreciated for attending school. ‘Someone else beyond their family cares about them going to school’, is the subtle message we hope to give them through our tiny deed for them.
When we discovered they were nine girls at Shiwal Zilla Parishad Girls Primary School from the Katkari community we had to encourage, I remembered Ambalika Banerjee and Surily Goel were wanting to reach out to under privileged people and I contacted them to join me in this little deed.
My friends Priyanka & Advait had a baby (their first) and I was keen to gift stationery for Usha Katkare and her siblings as their first born’s first donation. So this is, in a way, Arrinjay Chaturvedi’s (two months young) first donation.
Thank you to Ambalka and Surily for contributing equally to baby Arrinjay’s first donation. (Thank you Surily for this and the bicycle donation in Mumbai you contributed to last week.)
Thank you to Amablika, Surily and Mukul Madhav Foundatio for helping us reach out to the nine students. When the first generation in an ancestry receives an education, or encouragement, nature smiles.
1 Priyanka Mohan Mukane 6 yrs 1st Std
2 Vandana Suresh Jadhav 7 yrs 2nd Std
3 Jyoti Kisan Waghe 7 yrs 2nd Std
4 Usha Ashok Katekar 7 yrs 2nd Std
5 Gauri Ganesh Waghe 7 yrs 2nd Std
6 Vaishali Pappu Jadhav 7 yrs 2nd Std
7 Maya Nitin Jadhav 7 yrs 2nd Std
8 Manisha Ramesh Pawar 7 yrs 2nd Std
9 Diksha Arjun Jadhav 7 yrs 2nd Std
1) 200 pages note book – 5 per student
2) Maths 200 pages note book – 5 per student
3) Double line 200 pages note book – 5 per student
4) 100 pages note book- 5 per student
5) Pen, pencil, ruler & eraser
In the photos: Usha, and the others with Santosh Shelar.
Priyanka Chaturvedi Advait Chaturvedi Ambalika Banerjee Surily DP Goel